A lovingly restored Ōamaru stone homestead, with rich historical ties to the emergence of New Zealand’s agricultural economy, is for sale for only the third time in 150 years.
Totara Estate Homestead is a nationally significant period house set on 5.6ha of secluded grounds, only 8km from Ōamaru’s town centre.
The 18-room homestead was built in 1868 as the main home for a large Scottish-owned farming enterprise, which pioneered New Zealand’s frozen meat and dairy industries.
It is constructed of imposing Ōamaru stone and boasts many impressive heritage features including ornate plaster ceilings and cornices, period wallpaper, Baltic pine joinery, and timber and tile flooring.
Lived in by only a handful of families, the 650sq m homestead has been painstakingly restored and maintained by current owners George and Carol Berry, who purchased the property in 1973.
The couple are now reluctantly selling up to move closer to family, providing a unique opportunity for a new owner to embark on a new chapter in the homestead’s storied history.
The property would make an exceptional country home to enjoy, or a unique business asset with potential for boutique accommodation, hospitality and events.
Colliers has been exclusively appointed to market the property at 583 Alma Maheno Road, Ōamaru, for sale by deadline private treaty closing at 4pm on Wednesday 7 May, unless it sells earlier.
“Totara Estate Homestead provides an exceptional opportunity to secure a prestigious country estate with one of the finest period houses to be found in the beautiful South Island.
“It is a truly special property, as reflected by its Category 2 Heritage NZ listing for historic, architectural, aesthetic and archaeological significance.
“The two-storey homestead and its ancillary stone buildings have been fully restored and modernised, with great care taken to preserve the many Victorian period features.
“The house’s main family wing boasts seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, a parlour, drawing room, large formal dining room and fully renovated country-style kitchen with attached family dining.
“The former staff wing is set up as a separate apartment with its own kitchen, bathroom, lounge, bedroom and sunroom, with its own entrance and driveway. This would make an ideal manager’s residence if the main wing were adapted as guest accommodation.
“Two ancillary stone buildings, originally built as a dairy and cold store, have been restored and repurposed as a billiards room, wine cellar and vault. These could easily be converted again for hospitality uses.
“A substantial woolshed and covered yards could also easily be converted to a function centre.
“The buildings are set on a beautifully landscaped, elevated site with an impressive variety of up to 150-year-old trees. The grounds feature stone walls, a tennis court, grazing paddocks and picturesque gardens – perfect for weddings and other outdoor events.
“The original owners regarded the homestead as the ‘gem’ of their vast farming enterprise. Now is the time to make this gem yours.”
The current owners have enjoyed the property for almost 50 years, but it wasn’t always so immaculately presented. George Berry recalls the property had deteriorated considerably by the time he and Carol took possession.
“The stone structure was perfectly sound but most of the ground floor needed to be replaced. We had to renovate the house, room by room, with the help of wonderful tradespeople from Ōamaru.
“We had painters here for weeks and weeks, undertaking the painstaking work to restore the plaster ceilings and cornices.
“All the opening double-sash windows were taken apart, stripped, repainted and reinstalled with new sash cords, complemented by luxurious heavy drapes inside.
“The exterior woodwork and roofing have been repainted, stonework repaired as required, and the spouting and downpipes have been replaced in specially designed copper.
“The main kitchen has recently been upgraded with new benches and sinks, and the adjacent old kitchen features a butler sink and renovated antique Shacklock coal and wood fired range.
“It’s been a long and laborious process, but Carol and I are immensely proud to have restored the homestead to its original splendour.
“It truly is a wonderful home – which is why we’ve stayed here so long. We hope the next custodian will appreciate the space and serenity we’ve enjoyed over the past 50 years – as well as its wonderful sense of history.”
Totara Estate was established in the 1860s by runholders Mathew Holmes and Henry Campbell, who broke in the land and eventually grazed almost 18,000 sheep and 200 cattle.
The 5,919ha estate was purchased in 1866 by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company – one of the large private land companies that pioneered New Zealand’s agricultural growth.
The homestead was built in 1868 at a cost of £2,000, which was £700 over budget. The shortfall was covered out of the pocket of the estate’s first manager, Robert Macaulay.
The estate’s buildings were constructed from Ōamaru stone, which was locally hand-cut by Scottish tradesmen, as well as Baltic pine imported from the UK on the ship Star of Tasmania.
Tragedy struck during construction when the great storm of February 1868 battered the district. The storm took the lives of nine workers at Totara Estate, who drowned when the swollen Waiareka Stream flooded and swept away their homes.
In the same storm, the Star of Tasmania was driven ashore at Ōamaru as it was waiting at anchor for its return voyage, laden with New Zealand wool. The incident took the lives of two seamen and two infants, who had boarded the ship with their parents for passage to the UK.
Totara Estate Homestead contains a poignant reminder of the storm’s heavy toll. A small seat, made of timber from the wreck of the Star of Tasmania, has sat in the home’s entry hall for the past 150 years.
Upon its completion, the homestead was considered by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company as the “gem of the company’s possessions” and the “best and most substantial” home among its many properties.
Apart from the brief tenure of Totara’s first manager, only three families have lived in the homestead over its 150 years.
Totara’s second manager was John Macpherson, who oversaw New Zealand’s first-ever shipment of frozen mutton, along with butter and cheese, in 1882.
Key decisions leading up to this historic shipment were made from the homestead’s banqueting table, which remains in the large dining room to this day.
The estate was later subdivided into 26 blocks and Macpherson acquired the homestead block in 1906. He managed and lived on the estate until his retirement in 1920.
The estate was purchased by the Ewing family, who farmed the property until it was bought by the Berry family almost 50 years ago.
In 1981, the Berry family transferred part of the estate to Heritage New Zealand, ahead the centennial of New Zealand’s first frozen meat export. The original Ōamaru stone farm buildings are now a heritage museum which is open to the public.
Totara Estate Homestead is located off State Highway 1, only 8km south of Ōamaru, with additional right of way access from the neighbouring museum.
It is classic Victorian in layout, with a central front entrance and hallway with staircase, and a veranda framing the exterior entrance.
Within the homestead are some notable items of original furnishings as well as many period pieces of mid-colonial furniture. The vendors may consider selling these with the homestead.
The family dining area off the kitchen has a butler sink and a large Shacklock coal and wood range in perfect working order, which adds to the heritage character of the home.
There are working fireplaces to the principal rooms including the drawing room, parlour, formal dining room and apartment living room. The home is fully insulated and easily heated with an extensive central heating system.
The homestead benefits from a separate four-bay car/vehicle garage with an enclosed concrete forecourt. The grounds also contain a ‘Plume’ antique petrol pump with a 500-gallon tank, which is still in working order, and a hay barn complex and two grain silos, which are no longer in use.
The property boasts 3ha of irrigated paddocks, including a large pond. It is located within a district renowned for its fertile soils and vegetable production.
Hodges says the property is superbly positioned to capitalise on its proximity to Ōamaru.
“This bustling coastal town is as an increasingly popular tourist destination which is famous for its penguin colony and the limestone architecture of the Victorian Precinct by the harbour, which is a busy hub of shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants.
“Ōamaru is also the finishing point for the increasingly popular Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail which begins at Aoraki Mt Cook.
“All of this activity makes Totara Estate Homestead an exciting investment for a discerning buyer, or an ideal private retreat on the doorstep to fantastic amenity.”